BRECKENRIDGE - Citing a passion for the mountains and a desire to serve his community, Democratic State Senator Dan Gibbs announced Monday he'll make a 2010 run for the county commissioner seat being vacated by Bob French.
"I wanted to announce early to let the people in my district know what my intentions are," Gibbs said on the county courthouse steps in Breckenridge. Gibbs said he would finish out his term in the State Senate, where he was elected in 2008 to represent Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Jefferson and Summit counties. Gibbs beat Republican candidate Don Ytterberg 45,000 to 31,000 in the last election.
"I'm a mountain man," said Gibbs, who grew up in Gunnison. "I want to serve the people of Summit County."
Gibbs said his decision was based on a desire to follow his passion and his heart. He lives in the Farmer's Korner area and is an avid angler, skier and hiker. Gibbs is also a certified wildlands firefighter.
Summit County Democratic Party co-chair Lucinda Burns said there haven't yet been any serious discussions about who the party might pick as a candidate to run for Gibbs's Senate seat.
"It's a loss for us at the state level, but a win at the local level," Burns said.
State Rep. Christine Scanlan said she was asked about the possibility of competing for the Senate seat, but said her current intention is to run for re-election for the House seat she currently holds.
Local Republican Party chair Debra Irvine, who announced her intention to run against Scanlan, said her party also hasn't had a chance to consider candidates for Gibbs's Senate district. Other local Dems who attended Gibb's announcement made similar comments.
Democrats have had a lock on both the Senate and House seats since the late 1990s, when Bryan Sullivant, of Breckenridge, represented the area in the State Legislature.
State Republicans are determined to try and take back control over at least part of the State Legislature in 2010 after giving up control of the House, Senate and the governor's office in the past few election cycles. The open seat in Gibb's district might make it an attractive target for a strong Republican candidate, though the district is generally seen as relatively safe for Democrats - with a huge stronghold in Boulder.
Former county commissioner Gary Lindstrom, who also served in the State Legislature, said it's not unusual for state lawmakers to move to the county level of government. Lindstrom said Gibbs has always shown a keen interest in county-level politics, having attended many county commissioner sessions as a legislative representative for Mark Udall when Udall was a U.S. Representative.
Gibbs said his experience working for Udall and in the State Senate will serve him well as a county commissioner. Gibbs also works for Summit County as the wildfire mitigation officer.
During his tenure in Denver, he's been instrumental in finding money to fund grants for wildfire and forest health projects. He also tackled I-70 corridor transportation issues with gusto, helping to pass a tougher chain law for truckers.
Gibbs said pay was not a big factor in his decision. The base compensation for state lawmakers is $30,000 per year. He said that, with per diems and other compensation, the pay climbs to about $50,000 per year. Summit County commissioners earn about $70,000 annually.
Gibbs said he'll campaign hard for the county commissioner slot, and that he plans to knock on every door, "In typical Dan Gibbs fashion."